In January of this year, I had seen The XX in concert after hearing about them for almost four years. I liked their show a lot. What it lacked in variety, it made up for in the coherence of its shoegazing, low pressure vibe. When I saw the debut album of The XX in the used bins at Harvest during their anniversary sale [a month ago!] I bit, even though the used copy was eight dollars for the privilege. The cheapskate in me wants albums to be five dollars or less, but I purchased anyway!
#8 • The XX: XX UK CD 
- Heart Skipped A Beat
- Basic Space
- Night Time
The album hit its pace immediately with the brilliantly named instrumental “Intro.” Romy Croft’s lonely guitar recalls the last hurrah period of Post-Punk with a definite feel of 1983 with Echo + The Bunnymen ascendent and The Cocteau Twins’ Robin Guthrie right around the corner. The tone she used reminds me of Barney Sumner’s sound from New Order of this period, but filtered through a shoegaze filter that affects the vocal delivery, but not the clean, elegant guitar tone. Live, I can’t recall seeing Croft ever hit a pedal, in stark contrast to groups like Lush.
The one XX song I’d heard before seeing them was when OMD covered “VCR” and made it sound like one of their own, at least the music. The XX’s version ironically, has what sure sounds like the same Selmer Pianotron that provided OMD’s “Electricity” with its kalimba-like hook. Of course Romy and Oliver Sim’s vocals couldn’t be more different from OMD’s. They never turn the heat up, and both of them affect the same almost smacked out vibe of early Rickie Lee Jones with their low energy vocalizing.
The album maintains an even pace with almost motorik drumming moving the songs along briskly while the vocals glided over the top, but “Fantasy” opts for a Cocteau Twins “Victorialand” vibe with a dearth of beats [forgetting, for the moment, that Les Cocteaus were known to punish a drum machine or two in their day] and just the tones of the guitars pealing through the atmospheric haze.
The album hits its peak with “Infinity” having almost a reggae skank as the basis of its rhythm that contrasts mightily with the lashings of electro whipcracks and lightly dusted bongo drums. The last two tracks coast the album to its peaceful end and while it’s not a case of a night on the town waiting to happen, the band manage to occupy that heavy-lidded, late night in the bedroom vibe like few others in this period. When it’s past 2 am and you just don’t feel like sleeping, this music is perfect accompaniment to your proto-somnolent activities. I’ll have to get their new one, “Coexist.”
– 30 –
The XX really have learned from their elders. I agree with the EATB, CT and shoegaze comparisons. The debut album really impressed me and I was very happy with Coexist as well. It made my list of best albums of 2012.
Echorich – At my meager rate of purchase, I should be finally hearing it… in 2015! Still very glad I partook of their show. Jamie was a madman! Never have I ever seen one guy make so much noise.
All my cool pals love the XX. Somehow I’m unmoved by their charms, and just find them deadly dull. Every time I hear one of their songs, I keep wondering when I’ll detect a pulse. I know I’m in the great minority. Only reason I’m even commenting here is to be contrary. :)
Taffy – I understand where you’re coming from. They are not exciting. I understand how someone like yourself could find them dull. I’d almost call them smacked out…almost. They have a single mood they explore on this album. They do it well. I liked their show, but I didn’t run right out and buy any of their music. I waited to find it used. I will not be collecting them. They are a modest contemporary pleasure, and as such, I may ascribe more value to them than they are worth just because they are contemporary, and it bugs me that I discount so much contemporary music post 1990, but there I am.
Also, never feel bad about being contrary. It’s a sign of mental health in this sick, sad world.
Thx. I don’t think ever come off as a troll, but wanted to be sure.
And I’m like-minded in perhaps over-praising some contemporary artists/songs I like because so much of what I hear comes up short in comparison to my 70’s/80’s faves. But it’s widely said that the music most resonant to your life is that tied into your teen/20something years and experiences.
Taffy – I know. And I think that sucks. It sure wasn’t because my life was better then. It wasn’t. I think that the music of your teens/early 20s resonates so strongly because you are busy defining yourself as an individual at that time and the concept of imprinting comes to bear on your tastes. Plus, after 20 years in the pop music game, you gain knowledge and experience to see where it all came from before, and end up jaded.
Taffy – You’re the furthest thing from a troll! You’re family here at PPM!
awww, thx. nice to know misfits like me have a place to go!